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PLACEText: Victor Moreno

Located in the Royal Island of Djurgården in central Stockholm, since its opening in 2020, AIRA has established itself as one of the most sensational restaurants in Scandinavia, helmed by the visionary duo of Pi Lé, a Vietnamese-Swedish chef, and Tommy Myllimäkis, recognisable as a judge on Masterchef Sweden. Nordic cuisine has undergone a global transformation. Influenced by the likes of Noma in Copenhagen, AIRA puts its emphasis on fresh combinations of shifting seasonal ingredients and has steadfastly pursued gastronomic excellence since its beginning, earning its second Michelin star last June 2023. Their collective ambition now sets its sights on the coveted third Michelin star.

AIRA. Photo Gustaf Björlin/ Food Office

The building – designed by the Swedish architect Jonas Bohlin – is emblematic of his iconic contributions to Swedish design. Arriving at night, the soft, golden checkered lighting on the building’s exterior, shimmers above the water. Bohlin’s vision for the house was to integrate it into its surroundings while evoking a timeless allure. For instance, the façade’s unique material, which naturally weathers to a rustic patina, not only adds character but also provides durable protection.

Inspired by the elemental forces of nature, Bohlin conceptualized the house with the four elements in mind, the kitchen symbolizing the element of fire. The realization of Bohlin’s vision was no small feat, taking three years to bring to fruition. Yet, the end result marries the traditional Stockholm location with a modern minimal style, as if the building has always belonged to these surroundings. Beyond its architectural marvels, the restaurant’s location – a leisurely twenty-five-minute stroll from the city center or even arriving by boat – creates a sense of exclusivity and remoteness which elevates it from a mere dining destination to a cherished escape.

Hälleflundra. Photo Gustaf Björlin/ Food Office

AIRA’s concept revolves around utilizing seasonal produce with a global influence. In a place like Stockholm, where winters are long, seasonality is a challenge but the location’s proximity to rich pastures and the Baltic Sea offers an array of seasonal produce. “I wouldn’t say it’s easier somewhere else but if you compare it to a country where the seasons are more mild, take France for instance, the produce is so good there, you have so many seasonal variations. In Sweden we become a little more specialized, and obviously the more abrupt seasonal change affects our approach and makes us stay agile, “ Pi Lé explains.

Dill croustade – cute edible, forest-green shot glasses filled with lobster cream and browned butter. Photo Gustaf Björlin/ Food Office

Chef Pi Lé, drawing on his Vietnamese heritage, imbues AIRA’s cuisine with a delicate tapestry of international flavors. Pi Lé has an affinity for blending traditions like Scandinavian and Asian culinary philosophies. Despite his gastronomic achievements, Chef Pi Lé maintains a down-to-earth demeanor; he loves soul and jazz music and occasionally finds comfort in McDonald’s. “I love fried food,” he chuckles. Yet, his approach to Nordic cuisine aligns him with Sweden’s esteemed culinary titans, placing him alongside the likes of Björn Frantzén and Mathias Dahlgren.

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